A Christian photographer in the US state of New York has been told by a federal court she must provide services for gay-wedding celebrations despite holding religious objections to same-sex weddings.
Emilee Carpenter filed a federal lawsuit in April after she was asked to photograph seven gay-weddings. Under non-discriminatory law in New York State refusing to provide the services could mean a revoked business license, up to a year in prison and paying up to $100,000 (£75,000) in fines.
Carpenter, backed by The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) group, sued the state arguing the laws violated her First and 14th amendment rights.
The lawsuit said: “Just as the government cannot compel a lesbian baker to create a cake condemning same-sex marriage or an atheist playwright to wax positively about God, New York cannot force Emilee to convey messages she objects to.”
But in his ruling, Judge Frank Geraci, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, dismissed Carpenter’s claims and said that New York has a “compelling interest in ensuring that individuals, without regard to sexual orientation, have equal access to publicly available goods and services”.
It continued: “The crux of Plaintiff’s claims is that her photography is the product of her unique artistic style and vision. Thus, an exemption for Plaintiff’s unique, non-fungible services would necessarily undermine, not serve, the State’s purpose, as it would 'relegate [same-sex couples] to an inferior market' than that enjoyed by the public at large," Judge Geraci said.
Reacting to the ruling, ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs said: “The court’s decision continues down a dangerous path of the government compelling artists to speak messages that violate their religious beliefs—or imposing steep fines, closing their businesses, or throwing them in jail.”
ADF will seek to take the case to the Supreme Court.